Newly released video shows moments before a recently exonerated man was fatally shot by a deputy during a traffic stop
Oct 19, 2023, 7:00 AM
(Innocence Project of Florida)
(CNN) — Two months after the state of Florida formally apologized to Leonard Cure for the 16 years he lost following a wrongful conviction for armed robbery, authorities say he was fatally shot Monday by a sheriff’s deputy during a traffic stop just across the state line in Georgia.
“He and his family deserved better,” the Innocence Project of Florida said in a statement. “Lenny’s life mattered.”
Cure’s quest to rebuild his life after being wrongfully convicted in 2003 ended tragically on the shoulder of Interstate 95 in South Georgia on Monday morning.
On Wednesday, the Camden County, Georgia, sheriff’s office released body-worn and dash camera videos of the moments leading up to the shooting.
In the dash cam video, the deputy begins pursuing Cure with his sirens on after Cure’s vehicle passes his. The pursuit lasts about one minute and 20 seconds.
In the video, the deputy tells Cure to get out of his vehicle and says he pulled him over because he was speeding and driving recklessly. “You passed me going 100 miles per hour,” the deputy says.
“I’m not going to jail,” Cure says at one point. The deputy responds, “Yes, you are going to jail.”
The deputy orders Cure several times to put his hands behind his back, warning him he will be tased if he doesn’t. When Cure doesn’t comply, the deputy tases him.
While being tased, Cure turns and begins walking toward the deputy and grabs the Taser wire. The two engage in a physical struggle for about 20 seconds, during which Cure grabs the deputy’s throat and face. The deputy strikes Cure multiple times with a baton and Cure is heard saying, “Yeah, b*tch,” as the struggle goes on.
The deputy appears to fire his weapon and Cure falls to the ground. The gunshot is not audible in the videos.
The deputy is heard saying, “Camden, shots fired,” into his radio while he still commands Cure to stay down. Cure can be seen sitting up at times and flailing his arms. The deputy is then seen unpacking a first-aid kit and appears to begin administering aid until paramedics take over.
Cure later died, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation said.
The sheriff’s office said it released the videos to be transparent “regarding the actions that occurred” and to show the “confrontation and use of force.”
The GBI has said it “will conduct an independent investigation of the incident and turn its findings over to the Brunswick Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office for review.”
CNN has reached out to representatives of Cure’s family.
‘My baby was free
Cure had been exonerated and released from prison in April 2020, after serving part of a life sentence for armed robbery in Broward County, Florida, court documents said.
“He came home and I was over the moon because I thought that he was finally free,” Cure’s mother, Mary, told reporters at a news conference earlier on Wednesday. “My baby was free. But the truth of the matter is that he never came home.”
At 53, Cure had reconnected with his family, gotten a steady security job and was quietly starting a new life in an Atlanta suburb, where he was using the compensation from his wrongful conviction and imprisonment to buy his first home, according to the Innocence Project.
“The Leonard we knew was a smart, funny and kind person,” Broward State Attorney Harold F. Pryor said of the man who was the first person exonerated by the office’s conviction review unit.
“After he was freed and exonerated by our office, he visited prosecutors at our office and participated in training to help our staff do their jobs in the fairest and most thorough way possible.”
Civil rights attorney Ben Crump and Florida Innocence Project Director Seth Miller joined members of Cure’s family at the news conference.
“He is someone who was failed by the system once and he has again been failed b2y the system,” Miller said Wednesday, referring to Cure. “He’s been twice taken away from his family.”
Cure’s family planned to view the body and dash camera footage, his brother, Michael Cure, said earlier. The family was expected to meet privately with investigators shortly before the video’s public release and, following the viewing, the family planned to meet with the district attorney’s office to discuss next steps and possible disciplinary action for the deputy involved, the brother said Wednesday.
The family says the sheriff’s office footage is not the only video of the incident.
Crump, the civil rights attorney, said Cure was on Facebook Live during the traffic stop, but said the video has been pulled off the social media platform.
Roughly $50K for each year taken from his life
Known to friends as Lenny, Cure was returning home to Fairburn, Georgia, after his visiting his mother when the the deputy stopped him, the Florida Innocence Project, which represented Cure, said in a statement.
“Sadly his life was cut tragically short,” Miller said.
In 2019, when the Broward State Attorney’s Office launched a conviction review unit, one of the first petitions it received was from Cure, who had previously lost four appeals for post-conviction relief, according to Broward County court records.
The Florida Innocence Project said its investigation found that an ATM receipt showed Cure was miles away at the time of the robbery he was convicted of committing.
“There is no technicality here – incontrovertible evidence of actual innocence, and it was the prosecutors who prosecuted him, that office, the same office that moved to vacate his conviction,” Miller said at Wednesday’s news conference.
The armed robbery took place in Dania Beach on November 10, 2003, when a man with a revolver forced his way into a Walgreens store in the early morning hours, according to the Florida Innocence Project. The suspect left the store with $1,700 in cash. The descriptions of the suspect provided by two store employees did not match.
The Florida Innocence Project said its investigation also concluded “a photo array shown to one of the victims contained multiple photos of Lenny and was therefore an unreliable, suggestive identification procedure.”
In 2004, a mistrial was declared after the jury was deadlocked. Weeks later, Cure was tried again and convicted. He was sentenced to life in prison for armed robbery with a firearm and assault with a firearm.
In April 2020, the conviction review unit modified Cure’s sentence to 16 years and he was released on time served, according to the Innocence Project.
Cure in August received $817,000 in compensation for his conviction and imprisonment, or roughly $50,000 for each year taken from his life. Crump on Wednesday called the compensation “a mere pittance.”
Pryor, the Broward State Attorney, recalled this week that Cure “would frequently call to check in on Assistant State Attorney Arielle Demby Berger, the head of the Conviction Review Unit, and offer our team encouragement to continue to do the important work of justice.”